Pakistan prepares to extend border fence to Balochistan

In this file photo, a view of the border fence outside the Kitton outpost on the border with Afghanistan in North Waziristan, Pakistan, Oct. 18, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 February 2018

Pakistan prepares to extend border fence to Balochistan

ISLAMABAD: Security officials in Pakistan have announced that the border fence with Afghanistan will be extended to southwestern Balochistan in a bid to check illegal cross-border movement.
The army is already fencing the porous border in the country’s tribal areas with Afghanistan, as part of the border-management system.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have a border of nearly 2,600 km and illegal cross-border movement has caused tensions between the two nations.
This week senior army officer Brig. Nadeem Sohail told tribal elders in the border town of Chaman, Balochistan, that fencing will start soon to stop the “illegal influx of visitors” from the Afghan side of the border. While he did not give a date for the formal start of the fence, he did say all arrangements were in place.
Officials say Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 650 km border in Balochistan, fringing the southern parts of Afghanistan, including Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.
After Torkham in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Chaman is the second biggest and busiest notified crossing with thousands crossing each day. Both crossings have biometric identification systems.
The military started fencing last year after the government introduced passport and visa system for all Afghans entering Pakistan in June 2016. Security officials say border management was necessary to check movement of militants who have been blamed for violence in both countries.
Pakistani officials say that members of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant groups have fled to Afghanistan and are operating now from the Afghan side.
There are 16 notified exit routes along the border as well as hundreds of unnotified ones.
Afghanistan opposed the installation of a border fence, arguing that it would divide people, particularly ethnic Pashtuns, who live on both sides of the border. Pashtun nationalist parties in Pakistan fear that the fencing will divide families.
Pakistani Sen. Usman Kakar, senior leader of the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMPA), said the fencing cannot be implemented as families and villages are divided and many people cross the border each day.
“There are many people who have a house on this side of the Durand Line and a guest house on the Afghan side. Similarly, people have houses on the Afghan side, but they have graveyards on Pakistani side,” Kakar told Arab News.
Security officials, however, strongly favor the removal of unregulated borders.
Two military commanders in Waziristan tribal region told foreign media, during a visit to the border region in October, that the aim is to implement a border control system that is managed in accordance with international best practice.
They say currently there is a big gap with regard to forts and check posts — there are seven posts on the Pakistani side and only one on the Afghan side, according to Pakistani officials.
The military said that Pakistan planned to build 750 forts, with between 1.5 km to 3 km along the border to cover frequented and unfrequented routes.

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”